Ukraine stands firm a year into the fight – but the war is likely to grind on

Ukraine hopes to defeat Russia’s invasion this year but, unless the West provides sufficient weapons to achieve a decisive victory or Vladimir Putin gives up, this war is set to grind on.

One year into a full-scale invasion intent on toppling the government and imposing a pro-Russia regime, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was standing firm on Friday.

But this was a day for commemoration, not celebration as the nation observed a one minute’s silence to remember the tens of thousands of Ukrainian service personnel who gave their lives to protect Ukraine’s freedom.

Ukraine – latest: Zelenskyy describes his toughest moment during the war

They also know that there are many more days, months – even years – of tough fighting ahead.

The Ukrainian leader awarded medals to soldiers – including those who died – at a ceremony in Kyiv.

“We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts and cold,” he told lines of troops as well as families.

“And we will do everything to gain victory this year.”

Mr Zelenskyy knows that he must keep strong.

His country withstood the shock on 24 February 2022 of the biggest invasion in Europe since the Second World War.

But his people are exhausted and there is no end in sight to the threat, with battles raging in the east.

Ukraine’s military is unwavering in their determination to fight.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing no sign of giving up despite repeated defeats and setbacks.

His forces still hold about one fifth of Ukrainian territory, with up to 300,000 troops on the ground – double the initial invading force – according to Western officials.

It means the fighting this year is only set to worsen.

Neither side appears to have the capability to achieve a decisive victory. But no one is in the mood for compromise.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player


Ukraine marks one year of war

Asked by Sky News whether Ukraine could win on the battlefield or whether he might have to consider a negotiation – possibly even with Mr Putin – Mr Zelenskyy said: “Despite everybody seeing how they kill, torture and everything else, they’re not even trying to hide their attacks…They [Russians] don’t care.

“And seeing the world this way, do you think we Ukrainians can sit and negotiate with all of this?”

He continued: “Firstly – please respect our right to live on our land. Leave our territory.

“Stop shelling us, stop killing civilians, stop destroying our infrastructure, energy sector, drinking water, stop airstrikes on the cities, villages, stop killing dogs, cats, just animals, stop burning the forests.

Read more
Ukrainians recite ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ lyrics in powerful film
Russian ambassador interrupts minute’s silence for Ukraine
China unveils 12-point peace plan as it calls for ceasefire

“So you go ahead and stop doing all of that, and only after that, we’ll tell you what format will be used to diplomatically put an end to this.”

But the Kremlin believes the numbers – time and sheer mass of manpower – are on its side.

The Russian president has likely calculated that his Western foes lack the strategic patience to commit to a war that will outlast most election cycles.

He is pitching himself against European nations, in particular those that chose to take a peace dividend after the end of the Cold War and disinvest significantly in their armed forces.

However, Moscow’s decision to launch its illegal invasion has galvanised Western allies in a way not seen since the Cold War.

Countries like Germany and France that for years have failed to meet a minimum requirement of the NATO military alliance to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence are suddenly digging into their coffers and pledging to rebuild their militaries, while also supplying an increasingly lethal array of arms to Ukraine.

Click to subscribe to Beth Rigby Interviews… wherever you get your podcasts

There is a belated realisation that a world order that grew from the ashes of the Second World War, which benefitted democracies to the detriment of authoritarian regimes, is suddenly at peril.

The big question, though, is whether this will be enough to enable Ukraine to claw back all of its land or whether some kind of messy accommodation may ultimately have to be reached.